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2015 Kia Sorento Introduction

Kia applies a high standard to its cars. The 2014 Sorento boasted 80 percent new or re-engineered parts and content, including cosmetic changes, a new V6, new chassis, new electric steering, suspension revisions, improved braking, upgraded interior appointments, and new infotainment and telematics. Sorento will be all-new for 2016. So there aren’t many changes to the 2015 Sorento.

The Kia Sorento comes with Torque Vectoring Control (TVCC), for added stability in corners, and quicker electric power steering, with less than three turns of the steering wheel, lock-to-lock. The steering features an available Flex Steer system that offers drivers a choice of three steering modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport.

The 2015 Sorento was named the Best Family Vehicle by the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA), during the annual Mudfest competition in Snoqualmie, Washington, in which we participated. More than 20 NWAPA automotive journalists evaluated vehicles on an autocross course as well as paved and moderate off-road routes during the two-day event.

The front and rear fascia are fairly low and wide, while the grille is enhanced by either anodized silver or black mesh, depending on the model. The lower valance has been opened to expose a cross-hatched intake, while LED positioning lamps create striking eyebrows over projector-style headlights in clear lenses. Available fog lights on all trim models are upended and pushed to the far corners of the front bumper for better forward and side visibility. Horizontally positioned rear LED combination lamps warmly embrace the turn signal and back-up lights. The Sorento rides on 17-, 18- and available 19-inch wheels.

Like every vehicle in this class, the Sorento is a unibody design, basically front-wheel drive with an all-wheel drive option. Although, because the Sorento is available as a three-row seven-seater, there are precious few cars in its exact class (Mitsubishi Outlander to name one). But in fact, the Sorento is in a class of its own. The Sorento’s list of standard and optional features goes well beyond the rest of the compact crossover crowd, and so can its price. But the affordable beauty of the Sorento is the well-equipped LX model.

Although Kia continues to offer the smaller Sportage, Kia places the Sorento in the compact crossover field, where it has a size advantage. The Sorento is substantially bigger and roomier than the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota RAV4, none of which offer a third row.

Comparing specs and the feel and quality of the car, we’d say the Sorento is most like the Acura RDX: about the same wheelbase, length, weight, second-row legroom, horsepower and torque from a smooth V6, and 6-speed auto transmission. Cost for a fully loaded model is about the same, nearly $40,000, but the big difference is that the Sorento is available in the LX model with fewer luxuries, for about $8000 less than the base Acura RDX.

The Sorento’s double-overhead-cam V6 engine made its initial appearance in the 2012 Hyundai Azera sedan. A V6 is a rare option among compact crossovers, although the Outlander too has a V6 available. Kia’s 3.3-liter V6 uses direction injection to produce 290 horsepower, and 252 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel economy for the 2015 Sorento with 3.3-liter V6 is an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg City/Highway, 18/24 mpg with all-wheel drive. It comes with a 6-speed automatic. Regular gasoline is recommended for all models, a definite engineering plus, as many direct-injection engines today require Premium fuel. We put 764 miles on a 2015 Sorento SX AWD, and averaged a combined 24.1 mpg, beating the EPA estimate by a good bit.

Only the base Sorento LX comes with a four-cylinder engine, mated to a 6-speed automatic. It’s a 2.4-liter with GDI direct injection rated at 191 horsepower, 181 pound-feet of torque. It’s EPA rated 20/27 mpg City/Highway, 19/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. Although the V6 option adds $1600 to the bottom line, it doesn’t carry much of a fuel economy penalty, especially when all-wheel drive is ordered.

The one-year-old chassis features a subframe supporting the strut front suspension, stiffened front strut towers, larger bushings in the multilink rear suspension, and more high strength steel throughout the shell. Kia engineers cite an 18 percent increase in torsional rigidity, an area of chassis construction where more is always better, contributing to better handling and crashworthiness.

The Sorento has the feel of solid goods, with a goodly list of standard features even in basic LX editions.

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